Feb 4, 2021
Philadelphia ‘Secret Garden’ teaches about organic food, water conservation

A new educational display and interactive hub from the leader in regenerative organic agriculture is making its way to The Viaduct, a “secret garden” under Philadelphia’s Reading Viaduct Rail Park.

The Kutztown-based regenerative organic farming nonprofit Rodale Institute partnered with Cohere, which is operating a secret garden micro-gathering space at The Viaduct in the Spring Arts neighborhood of Philadelphia. Together, Rodale Institute and Cohere will host the first “Grow Clean Water hub,” a public educational installation aimed at linking clean water and healthy food.

Grow Clean Water, an initiative powered by Rodale Institute, Stroud Water Research Center, and The William Penn Foundation, seeks to educate families in the Philadelphia area about how food and the way it’s grown affects clean water. Visitors to the Grow Clean Water hub at The Viaduct can view educational signs around the garden explaining the importance of organic agriculture, healthy soil, native plants, compost, pollinators, and more.

The signs, geared towards families, are placed near The Viaduct’s own organic gardens, compost piles, and chicken coops, and highlight Philadelphia-based organizations putting water-smart farming methods into practice such as FarmerJawn CSA, Kind Earth Growers nursery, and Bennet Compost.

“We’re becoming more and more removed from agriculture,” said Diana Martin, Director of Communications & Marketing for Rodale Institute. “If you don’t know how your food is produced, you can’t understand its connection to clean water, a healthy environment, and a thriving local ecosystem. At The Viaduct, we have a chance to bring the farm to the city, helping families learn where food comes from and how it impacts their health and the world around them. The Grow Clean Water hub will create a physical space for community and connection around soil, food and water.”

The Grow Clean Water hub also features a scavenger hunt coloring activity that encourages families to visit each of the educational displays and learn more at GrowCleanWater.org, while parents can enjoy the open-air, COVID-safe atmosphere of the garden.

Open for ticketed events and public visits once a week, The Viaduct is also home to Maidencreek Co.’s build-your-own bouquet bar, pop-up markets with local artisans, and more. A project of Cohere branding agency and Rodale Institute Board member Erik Oberholtzer, The Viaduct was built around a sense of the interconnectedness of nature, food, and community.

“The Viaduct is a place of discovery and as a chef, my contribution is food and the relationship that food has with everything we hold dear,” says Oberholtzer. “The organic principles of Rodale Institute inform much of what we do here – from the soil, seeds, chickens and menu. Grow Clean Water at The Viaduct stands as a glimpse into the influence of agriculture on our waterways. A visit to our secret garden offers tastes of organic food, warm greetings from our chickens, the beauty of native plants in bloom and the smell of lavender blossoms filling the city air.”

Rodale Institute will host a virtual panel discussion on Saturday, February 27 from 10 – 11:30 a.m. ET, titled “Food, Farming, and Philadelphia: The Impact of Organic Agriculture on Human and Environmental Health in the City of Brotherly Love” with Green Philly. This free panel discussion will examine the ways in which food, and how it’s grown, are taking root in the Philadelphia environmental scene. Featured speakers will include Christa Barfield of Farmer Jawn, Justin Trezza of the PA Horticultural Society, Ben Miller of South Philly Baracoa, and Emily Newman from Rodale Institute. Register for this webinar at RodaleInstitute.org/Events.

Rodale Institute will also host a family-friendly Earth Day celebration at the Viaduct on April 24, 2021. This event will allow small groups of families to visit interactive stations around the Viaduct, focused on themes such as Grow, Eat, Learn, and Explore. Activities will include planting an organic vegetable seedling, making a healthy snack, exploring a worm compost bin, and Rodale Institute’s VR experience. Pre-registration is required and will open soon.

Grow Clean Water is specifically focused on the Delaware River Watershed, an area that provides drinking water to approximately 13 million people, including 1.5 million in the Philadelphia region.

Supported by Rodale Institute’s long-term research trials, Grow Clean Water educates families in the Watershed about how organic and regenerative farming practices like reducing chemical use, using cover crops, and reducing tillage can protect our drinking water.

Industrial agriculture is one of the leading causes of water pollution in the U.S. In 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations outlined that limiting the application of chemicals and fertilizers to crops while using conservation agriculture strategies to control erosion would reduce the risk of water pollution. By removing chemicals and fertilizers that can run off into waterways, as well as regenerating the soil to increase its stability, organic and regenerative farming can have a direct impact on our nation’s water supply.

To bring the promise of regenerative organic farming to Philadelphia and beyond, Grow Clean Water has embarked on a variety of community projects since its launch in 2019. Visitors to Rodale Institute’s headquarters in Kutztown, Pennsylvania can view a new mural honoring the harmony and connection of regenerative organic farming created by Philadelphia artists Amber Art and Design.

Through Grow Clean Water, Rodale Institute has also launched a new 360º virtual reality experience, a teaching tool that can be used to bring the beauty and potential of regenerative organic farms to residents of urban centers like Philadelphia.

More information about Grow Clean Water can be found at GrowCleanWater.org. Register for the Grow Clean Water webinar and other events at RodaleInstitute.org/Events. Follow @viaductphl on Instagram to learn more about upcoming events at the Grow Clean Water hub and how to visit.

Above, the Viaduct in Spring Arts, home of a new Grow Clean Water food & farming installation.


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